Dodgers making progress on extension with Clayton Kershaw

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers are making progress with starter Clayton Kershaw on a seven-year contract extension worth in excess of $180 million. The 25-year-old left-hander enters his third and final year of arbitration going into 2014 after which he would be eligible for free agency. That the Dodgers would eventually sign Kershaw to an extension seemed inevitable; the only question was the exact amount of cash involved.

Kershaw’s contract will be based in no small part on those signed recently by Tigers ace Justin Verlander (seven years, $180 million) and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175 million).

Assuming the first year of the contract would be near the average annual value ($25-26 million), the Dodgers would owe $20 million or more to five players going into the 2014 season: Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Zack Greinke. Their 2014 payroll already stands at $163 million without factoring in the arbitration eligibility of Kershaw and potentially four other players.

Kershaw has a league-best 1.88 ERA on the season and led the NL in that category in each of the previous two seasons as well, winning the Cy Young in 2011 and finishing as the runner-up to R.A. Dickey last year.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.